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Explanation and List of CPU Performance Measurements

written by: George Garza•edited by: M.S. Smith•updated: 7/21/2010

How the CPU performs under the stress of running programs is important. Software that should run without problems can run slower, or not at all. Identifying where the problems may be can help troubleshoot the issues and provide guidance on how to solve the problem.

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    CPU Performance Monitor Counters

    Microsoft has a process monitor program that will display all the processes that run on the system. There is a set of internal processor objects which focus primarily on the CPU of the system. The counters listed here help determine processor performance.

    Performance Monitor Processor

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    Processor - % Processor Time.

    How often does the CPU actually work? All the time? Or just part of the time? This counter is useful because it provides a measurement on how much time the processor spends working on productive threads, those sections of the code that have to be executed. It also measures how often it is servicing requests. This counter also provides a measurement of idle time; that is when the system is doing nothing subtracted from 100%.

    See Also: How To Lower a Computer's CPU Usage

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    Processor and Interrupts /sec

    Using the Interrupts/sec monitor identifies the number of interrupts, such as when the CPU has to respond to a hard disk, or a network request. A value consistently over 1000 typically indicates a problem. This includes errors in or poorly configured drivers. If you compare this value with the System - Systems Calls/sec and if the Interrupts/sec value is much larger, over a period of time, you probably have a hardware issue.

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    System - System Calls/sec

    This counter measures the number of calls made to the system components, that is, the Kernel mode services. It indicates how busy the system is in taking care of applications and services; these are software operations. When you compare this counter to the Interrupts/Sec counter, it will give you an indication of whether processor issues originate at the hardware or software level.

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    Processor - % Interrupt Time.

    This counter is also valuable at telling you if you have a hardware problem. This counter identifies the percentage of time that the processor spends on handling Interrupts. Normally, 50% is the problem indicator value. If the processor spends 50% of its time or more handling interrupts, you may have a hardware issue. However, some older components on a computer can force this issue, masking what may not actually be a problem. A programmable I/O card like an old disk controller card can use up CPU time.

    For additional information see: What Can Cause a Computer Processor to Max Out?

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    CPU RightMark

    We now turn to software programs that test CPU performance and provide additional details on cpu monitor performance.

    The CPU RightMark suite offers an objective measurement of the performance of processors. The tests occur during different tasks such as solving of 3D graphic problems and numerical modeling of physical processes. The suite focuses on testing the CPU/RAM tandem and loaded FPU/SIMD units. This yields an objective result determined without the influence of video and disc subsystems, except memory.

    rmcpu model 

    Source: Cpu RightMark

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    The second program we look at is from Passmark. They provide a program that tests mathematical operations, encryption, compression, and SSE. In the area of 2D graphics it tests bitmaps, drawing lines, text, and fonts. There are also disk tests, memory tests and CD / DVD tests.


    Source: Passmark

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    Monitoring CPU performance is necessary to determine how well a computer is acting under times of stress as well as when there is little or no activity. We looked at providing an explanation and list of CPU performance measurements. We also looked at two CPU monitoring programs that are more sophisticated than the Microsoft monitoring tools. One was CPU Rightmark and the other is Passmark. They offer additional details about CPU performance an provide benchmarks.

    Source: Microsoft